There’s a short, romantic interlude near the beginning of the movie “Ghostbusters,” in the fire station when Janine is sitting at her desk and Spengler is kneeling at her feet wiring up her computer:
Janine: You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.
Spengler: Print is dead.
Janine: That’s very fascinating to me. I read a lot, myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual. But I think reading is a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play racketball. Do you ever play?
Spengler: Is that a game?
Janine: It’s a great game! You should play some time. I bet you’d be good. You seem very athletic. Do you have any hobbies?
Spengler: I collect spores, molds and fungus.
I don’t collect spores, molds and fungus like Spengler, but I have grown spores, molds and fungus sometimes like houseplants because the colors and shapes—in miniature—can be really beautiful. I’m also not as convinced as Spengler that print is dead, however I do believe monthly magazines as we have them today are dead. Most monthly magazines are printed many months before they appear on news stands to get the best deals from printers. With the internet updating news second by second in real time, who needs magazine content that was interesting three months ago?
But there are some magazines that I still routinely glance through when I see them at news stands or libraries. Once or twice a year they surprise me with something I never expected to see. This month I was surprised by a magazine called, “The Artist’s Magazine.” They have an article about the making of a classic contemporary painting. In brief, the story is:
Just before world war two, an art gallery in New York hosted an exhibition of classic European paintings. One of the paintings on display was Botticelli’s “The Birth Of Venus:”
A young painter named Edward Hopper and his wife attended the exhibit and the young painter was very impressed with “The Birth Of Venus.” The next day, Hopper told his wife he wanted to “meditate” on what they’d seen and get started on a new painting of his own. He walked around New York, and spent hours in the evening riding elevated trains and looking in the windows of office buildings the trains passed. His meditation led him to a series of test sketches and, finally, Hopper asked his wife to pose for a painting. He instructed her to wear a short, tight skirt that would show “a lot of leg.” He then created the painting, “Office At Night:”
Looking at these two images, I never would have imagined a connection between them. Heck, even knowing the Botticelli inspired Hopper, I do not see any correspondences between the images.
This strikes me as intriguing counter-point to my “Inca Roads” posts about coincidence. When we experience a coincidence we sense that there should be some kind of connection between two things but we can’t conceive of any. In the case of artistic inspiration, even when we know there is a connection between two things, the complexity of human consciousness and the infinity of ways concepts and images interact with consciousness creates a situation where, for all practical purposes, the connections are unfathomable without guidance from the artist himself.
Is the universe conscious? Are “coincidences” examples of the universe itself reacting to flashes of inspiration?